Before we jump in the pool with Emma Pettigrew let’s see what the Skyline junior has been accomplishing on dry land – because it’s pretty amazing.
A 4.0 student, Pettigrew has already set her sights on the pinnacle of higher education and has logged in to what she wants to do when her Skyline days are over. Listen up, you don’t hear this very often.
“I want to major in Computer Science, possibly specializing in computational biology or software security,” she says. “I am considering Carnegie Mellon, MIT, Caltech, and Northwestern because of their stellar computer science programs and their locations.”
Emma, the daughter of Melissa and Michael Pettigrew, is a member of Skyline’s Science Olympiad, Coral Reef Preservation Club (she’s the founder), and Women in Science in Engineering Club. She is also a standout swimmer on the Skyline swimming and diving team.
“I would like to swim in college and I’ve been in contact with the coaches from MIT, Caltech and Carnegie Mellon, so we’ll see where that goes in the future,” Pettigrew said.
While her future looks pretty good so does her present.
“My season is going very well,” she says. “I’ve been having a lot of fun and I haven’t been stressing about my races as much as I used to. I recently went my lifetime best in the 100 breast, which is my best and favorite event.
“One thing that I love about this season is that I’ve always been happy and smiling behind the blocks, which is a rarity for me,” she says, with a smile.
Pettigrew has high standards, and despite excelling in everything she does, can be hard on herself. She also isn’t the loud and vocal type but makes quite a loud statement with her accomplishments in and out of the pool.
“Emma is the strong silent type; even a little bit stealth,” says Skyline head coach Maureen Murrett. “She has dealt with tremendous disappointment and has always responded by working harder and figuring out a way to get better.
“I think it will be hard for her to choose a major in college because she pretty much excels in every subject.”
Pettigrew’s goals in the water for this season include making the state team in the breaststroke and to “stop over-thinking before, during, and after my races.”
She has similar goals for the talented Eagles.
“My goals for the team were to have as little drama as possible, to take every opportunity we get, and to maintain positive attitudes even when things get difficult or when we have a bad meet,” she says.
Pettigrew finds herself in early November right on pace for her goals. She recently went 1:09.04 in the 100 breaststroke at the Pioneer meet, which is only .35 away from the state cut.
And as for the over-thinking?
“ I’ve been working on it throughout the course of the season and I think it’s going pretty well,” she says, not over-thinking her answer. “I’ve been struggling with over-thinking my races since I was 12 and it’s been a long process but I’m finally starting to see some positive results.”
She is getting plenty of support from her teammates and in turn supporting them.
“I think something that we do really well is support each other and we’re not really boastful,” she says. “Something I always miss about Skyline Swim and Dive when we’re out of season is how close we all become and the culture of support that can’t be replicated elsewhere.”
Pettigrew says the Eagles are unique in that the family atmosphere they create during the season carries over for the entire year. “Many of the other teams that I’ve been on have had this family dynamic but it gets lost when we’re not together all the time,” she says. “I think something else that makes our group so unique is that we all have conflicting personalities but they mesh well with each other.”
Pettigrew has come close to making the state finals in the breaststroke. During her freshman year, she missed the cut by .22. As a sophomore, she missed it by .19.
“I’m going to break that trend this year,” she says.
Last year, she finished seventh at SECs in the 100 breast and 10th in the 200 IM.
One of her highlights for Skyline swimming actually happened outside of the pool.
“MoJo (Coach Murrett) said that our Senior Night dance this year was the best that she has ever seen,” she says. “If you don’t know about the senior night dance, each year the juniors on the team choreograph a dance that we perform before diving at our last home dual meet of the season. Getting that kind of praise from MoJo is a pretty big deal so I’m very proud of us.”
Let’s stay on that theme – something she is proud of.
Last summer, Pettigrew spent two weeks at a Yale summer leadership program specializing in engineering.
“It was very educational and it reaffirmed my belief that I could succeed in computer science,” she says. “I worked on a small car with a partner and we programmed it to complete an obstacle course by following a black line (it was essentially a small self-driving car). Our car ended up getting second place, which was a great accomplishment considering that we had to learn an entire new programming language in a week.
“I met many people from all over the country who all had different perspectives and it broadened my horizons. The leadership portion of the program taught me that even if you’re not the loudest or most confident in a group, you can still be an effective and compassionate leader.”